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It’s Charli Baby: Charli XCX Discography Ranked

This feature series is broadly entitled “The Albums That Define Us”, and personally speaking, there’s no artist I’ve had time for more consistently than Charli XCX. For as long as I’ve been taking notice of what’s been coming on the radio, I’ve taken notice of Charli XCX. I’ve been enjoying her music since before I knew who she was. Her biggest breakthrough hits saw her in a featured capacity, usually as the most memorable part of songs that didn’t really deserve her uniquely dynamic presence.

People the world over had a hard time hating Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” as much as they felt like they should, and her undeniably catchy chorus was the reason why. It’s become quite fashionable to show disrespect to Icona Pop’s “I Love It” as well, but make no mistake, that is the best EDM song ever made and one of my favourite songs of all time. It’s an era-definitive club anthem, alongside Usher’s “Yeah” and The Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling”, and nothing captures a sense of nostalgic, adolescent euphoria more immediately and impactfully than her bombastic chant of: “I. Don’t. Care!”

Although her biggest hits established her as a pure pop sensation, much like her Hall of Fame counterparts Robyn or Carly Rae Jepsen, she’s gone on to become a surprising critical darling following her shock transformation into hyper-pop pioneer in the latter half of the 2010s. It’s hard to think of any musical act that made a sharper change in sound than Charli XCX did between her 2015 Sucker album and the 2016 Vroom Vroom EP. However, as a bit of a day one fan, each phase of her career has an entirely distinctive and unique charm, and its own highlights, from the teen glamour of True Romance to the glitchy, eccentric How I’m Feeling Now, each project in its own way perfectly articulating the creative goals of its era. This article will rank each of her four studio albums, four mixtapes and one of her most notable extended plays, from least to most significant.

9. True Romance (2013)

Charli’s 2013 studio debut with Asylum Records, True Romance delivers what was at the time some of Charli’s more radio-friendly mixtape tracks, reimagined as stadium anthems with more expensive and glamorous production. Some might call it a refinement of her mixtapes, others a neutering, and I think it’s a little of both. There are times here where I do miss the rough, DIY aesthetic of those underground projects, which had a sense of spontaneity and cohesion rather lacking here, but there’s no denying the polished, anthemic sound delivered here either. We get to hear the finished version of “You’re the One” as a superb, alternately crushing and grandiose anthem, and it’s an unquestionable early-career highlight. The version of “Lock You Up” presented here is also a gratifying expansion on the original, although without its sister track “Spoons”.

As for tracks like “Grins” which are transposed more or less intact, with just some cleaning up, I think it’ll be down to personal aesthetic preference which versions you prefer. She’s a little more buried in the mix when it comes to tracks like “So Far Away”, and the lower fidelity sound suited the aims of a track like “How Can I” better than the cleaner version here. The skits and samples are gone and with them are the smooth transitions between tracks, leaving the twenty-minute long mixtapes ironically sounding more ambitious and conceptual than the more than the forty-minute long album.

There are also a few new tracks here, like “You (Ha Ha Ha)”, which is a stunningly cinematic moment of bitter, euphoric pop bliss, and the glitchy, dramatic “Take My Hand”. Its moments like this where the bigger budget of this project really shows itself, although occasionally to the album’s detriment with the extremely polished and rather overproduced sound of songs like “Stay Away” and “Set Me Free (Feel My Pain)”. At times like this, Charli sounds less like herself and more like someone like Sia, an artist who can always be plugged into any track to lend it some presence and dynamism. Her vocal performances throughout the album are unquestionably stunning, supporting a grandiose set of pop anthems, but her distinctive personality seems diluted here, even if that doesn’t get in the way of some superb high-points.

Highlights: “You (Ha Ha Ha)”, “Stay Away”, “Grins”, “Cloud Aura”, “You’re the One”

Lowlights: “So Far Away”, “Black Roses”

8. Super Ultra (2012)

The second of the two underground mixtapes Charli released through MySpace in 2012, Super Ultra is darker and sultrier than its predecessor, or really any of her subsequent projects, exploring themes of adolescent love, sexual experimentation and drug use. The album commences with the creaking and unstable “Cloud Aura”, featuring regular collaborator rapper Brooke Candy, on which Charli’s chorus and the sinister beat steal the show from the verses.

Charli’s hip-hop influence was one of the elements to her music that still needed some time to mature at this point, and the flow she uses here is pretty rudimentary, especially compared to her hypnotic work on the chorus. The sinister and sensuous atmosphere continues onto the next track, a cover of The Art of Noise’s “Moments in Love”, which has an ominous and regal remix of the original’s beat and a sexy hook, it’s just a shame the track is so short, coming in at less than two minutes.

One of the skits populating her first two mixtapes opens up the next track “Velvet Dreaming (Luv)”, this one an extract from the film from which she would take the title for her debut album: True Romance. The track that follows is a trippy and euphoric song with a stunning chorus and hallucinogenic synth-based instrumental. The twirling, sped-up sample on “Dance 4 U” feels almost Kanye-esque to me, and Charli’s performance on the track is typically intimate and sexually charged, the song culminating almost comically with a Justin Bieber interview extract.

“Glow” and “Heatwave” are two tracks that sound especially predictive of later pop sounds to me. I could easily hear Ariana Grande over the instrumental for “Glow” today, and “Heatwave” sounds a lot like what the Jonas Brothers would go on to do in the years to follow. Specifically, the melody sounds eerily similar to the hook to “Cake by the Ocean”, and the lyrics are equally awkwardly and bluntly sexually charged. As a result, it’s one of my least favourites on the tape, but I still enjoy it. “Gold Nites (Remix)” is the one track I’m not really a fan of here, although that’s more on the original artist How To Dress Well than Charli herself.

The closing track “Forgiveness” is a detour into sincere and sombre balladry, with an initially spartan piano instrumental buoyed by swells of dramatic instrumentation. Her vocal performance here is one of her most powerful, and you can almost hear her tears falling onto the microphone. Like the rest of the mixtape, it may be primitive, but there’s an intimacy to its very rawness that Charli wouldn’t recreate until How I’m Feeling Now.

Highlights: “Moments in Love”, “Velvet Dreaming (Luv)”, “Dance 4 U”, “Forgiveness”

Lowlights: “Gold Nites (Remix)”

7. Heartbreaks and Earthquakes (2012)

A strange, low-fi and extremely rough early project, Charli’s debut mixtape is as raw as it gets. Like Super Ultra many of the tracks here were recycled and refined on True Romance, but the unrestrained and DIY aesthetic of this project has an appeal of its own, one that acutely emphasises the vulnerability of the songs’ lyrics in a way that places it ahead of the studio album for me. Any elements to this tape that could be construed as flaws might as easily be regarded as strengths. Charli’s personality and penchant for songs that detail a form of romantic yearning that borders on desperation and even physical pain is already present, as is her talent for writing sticky hooks. The soaring vocals and melodies of tracks like “How Can I” or “Grins” are instantly catchy and the former of these tracks also already features the combination of a pop register with crushing and distorted futurist sounds that would define her later, more respected work.

Two elements present in these early mixtapes that Charli pulled back on in subsequent projects are sampling and the skits which act as transitional moments between tracks and add a lot of unhinged personality to the tape. It’s very common for artists to exploit sampling heavily on mixtapes but drop the technique once they transition into studio albums, as sample clearances heavily inflate the budgets of albums, and it was no different for Charli. As a result, early mixtape Charli sounds very different than early album Charli. However, the personality and attitude is very similar to her later work, with a bold and direct writing style.

The introductory skit to “Dreams Money Can Buy” from Kill Bill Vol.2 establishes the cold-blooded tone the track achieves, and although the chorus is a little underdeveloped, the sample-heavy instrumental is one of the more assured and confident on the project. It’s another of several moments here that sounds not unlike the shape of pop to come, with the combinations of hip-house, pop and electronica now feeling very ahead of their time. “Lock You Up” is an uplifting electronica track with another fantastic hook that transitions impeccably into the following track “Spoons”, which, after a somewhat weak bridge, delivers a second half with MNEK that still sounds fresh to this day, finally giving way to the banger beat of The Internet remix of “You’re the One”, that lends the track an almost horrorcore atmosphere.

The weakest moments on the album are some of the spoken word passages to tracks like “So Far Away”, which is a style that doesn’t play to the strengths of Charli’s commanding voice, and the opening track “Champagne Coast”. However, the only issues there are nothing to do with Charli’s presentation and simply with the rather repetitive chorus of the Blood Orange song she’s covering. Those moments aside, although certainly brief and untamed, with some moments feeling a bit cluttered, Heartbreaks and Earthquakes is nonetheless a phenomenally confident and artful debut that plainly showed the potential Charli had to those willing to listen, establishing many ideas and elements that she would continue to return to and develop, one by one, throughout her maturation.

Highlights: “How Can I”, “Grins”, “Lock You Up”, “Spoons”, “You’re the One”

Lowlights: “So Far Away”

6. Vroom Vroom (2016)

The Vroom Vroom EP was the moment of Charli’s rebirth, transitioning her into challenging, dementedly avant-garde hyper-pop through her collaborations with PC Music producers A.G. Cook and SOPHIE. There are quite a few respects though in which this also marks a return to her roots, as there are many moments on Super Ultra that now feel rather predictive of this era. However, in my opinion, the transition presented on Vroom Vroom wasn’t quite as smooth as most argue.

I think the rose-tinted view of Vroom Vroom emerges mostly from the title track, an irrepressibly dark, squawking, belching bubblegum-bass rager. Charli’s lyrics and vocals are alternately hilariously confident and absurd, her rapping having improved tenfold on her earlier work, and intermittently graceful when she begins singing breathily on the delicate pre-chorus and glittering outro. The song moves through so many different styles and phases across its three-minute runtime, beginning with the rising tension in the techno bassline and squeaking noises, everything sounding incredibly rubbery and fetishistic. Then the first verse hits with Charli’s bratty vocals over booming kicks, stiff hi-hats and marching snares.

She then begins singing on the pre-chorus over a completely different bassline, chipmunked backing vocals and finger snaps, and just when you expect the song to explode into a soaring chorus or riff, it introduces the titular vroom-vroom sounds, which are actually more pitch-shifted vocals, as are the crying “wee-we-we-weeew” and “beep-beep” noises, reinforcing the song’s central metaphor: she’s the car. Then, instead of going straight into the second verse, which contains the hilarious imagery of Charli pulling up and stealing somebody’s dog, the song reintroduces the original synth bassline, as if the song is starting all over again. It’s a glossy, seductive and utterly strange piece of audio, and an enormous creative risk considering where Charli left us previously. It’s truly a career-defining track and one of the most daringly enjoyable left turns in music history.

However, it is only one of four tracks on the EP, and the other three don’t quite live up to their potential in the same way. When you’re experimenting with a new sound and incorporating so many different musical ideas and passages into each track, then they’ll not all come together in the perfect way that they do on “Vroom Vroom”, especially when the unifying stylistic choice for many of them seems to be intentional anti-climaxes. “Paradise” is a high-quality but fairly unremarkable EDM song with a cute enough verse from Hannah Diamond, until the batty ping-pong drop which is certainly strange but not really enough to elevate the track. “Trophy” reintroduces the Tarantino movie sampling from Charli’s mixtape days, this time incorporating a Pulp Fiction audio snippet into the chorus. The combination of more mainstream and accessible sounds, with unexpectedly bizarre ones, continues onto “Secret”, where Charli’s delivery on the verses reminds me almost of M.I.A., and this one is particularly all over the place with a phenomenal pre-chorus and a disappointing rumbling drop.

Although every song on it has grown on me over the years, Vroom Vroom‘s status as an experimental, transitory phase in Charli’s artistic evolution is still clearly in evidence. Nonetheless, it is a defining moment in that evolution and the arguable failures of this EP did bring her in short order to the successes of her later work on Charli or How I’m Feeling Now.

Highlights: “Vroom Vroom”

Lowlights: “Trophy”, “Secret (Shh)”

5. Number 1 Angel (2017)

In 2017 Charli solidified her new direction with a pair of ten track mixtapes, pulling a who’s who of alt-pop stars into her circle. The poppier and more accessible of the two projects, Number 1 Angel is a polished and glamorous collection of pop anthems, incorporating the synthetic production aesthetics of Vroom Vroom into warmer and friendlier packaging. It’s still rather out there by pop standards though, generally rejecting the more triumphant power pop of the Sucker era, and prioritising more complex and vulnerably emotional material.

Songs like “Blame It On U” and “3am (Pull Up)” portray Charli lost in unhealthy but intoxicating relationships, seemingly in the thrall of her partner who she struggles to cut herself off from, singing: “I can’t believe I used to want this” and “every lie you tell comes true, but I still want to be with you”. Meanwhile, tracks like “Roll with Me” sound like slightly more accessible versions of the party music material on Vroom Vroom, featuring not only similar transitions but the same kinds of oddly ominous drops with rumbling bass and chipmunked vocals. “Emotional” is a stunning ballad of romantic missed connection featuring the most poignant and romantic writing on the project: “we had something that never happened, if only we had lost control…” and “ILY2” is another highlight, seemingly answering the previous track with an explosive acknowledgement of affection: “I don’t talk a lot, so you should listen up, I mean it when I say, I’m not afraid, it’s okay, you know I love you too”.

After the mournfully weeping and intimate “White Roses”, the album ends with a run of highly sexual collaborative tracks, “Babygirl” with Uffie, “Drugs” with Abra and “Lipgloss” with CupcakKe. However, despite the guests, Charli holds court over each track with her magnetic vocals and except for CupcakKe, whose segments don’t really fit into her track, none of the guests feel as if they’re bringing much to any of these tracks except their audiences. A brief appearance by Uffie or Abra just can’t compete with the presence Charli exerts over a track.

Although it may seem like a mere confirmation of her new direction through some solidly accessible pop tracks, Number 1 Angel introduced both a vein of confessional and romantic song writing and emotional expressiveness, and a desire to embrace collaborations with her peers, both aspects which would go on to define her work as much as any other element.

Highlights: “3am (Pull Up)”, “Emotional”, “ILY2”, “Babygirl”

Lowlights: “Roll with Me”

4. Sucker (2015)

Some people believe they’re too good for Sucker. These people are no fun and should be avoided at parties. What it lacks in the musical experimentation of a project like Vroom Vroom or Pop2, it more than makes up for with some of the catchiest and most jubilantly adolescent power pop anthems in existence. Although they were released while I was at university, I could swear songs like “Break the Rules” and “Famous” were around when I was in school. How could they not be? They sound like being a teenager, or at least, the idealised, aspirational view of what being a teenager should, in a fair and just society, be like. Although it strays from the more intriguing rawness of her early mixtapes, Sucker picked up a vital part of the Charli XCX formula, one that has stayed with her ever since, and that’s a tempestuous party girl attitude, let out full force here.

Released coincident with her biggest hit to date, “Fancy” with Iggy Azalea, Sucker produced her biggest and most iconic solo hits. “Break the Rules”, should have a reserved spot on the setlist of every prom night DJ from now until the end of time, with one superb hook piled on top of the other; that synth riff was iconic the day it dropped. It’s peak 90s bubblegum nostalgia with a little pop-punk flair.

“Boom Clap” is possibly my favourite song from this era of Charli’s career. A soundtrack hit for the teen romance The Fault in Our Stars, it has absolutely impeccable production and one of Charli’s most devastatingly potent choruses ever, capturing a visceral lovestruck sense of pulse-racing happiness and total freedom. The weaker songs on Sucker, like the title track, can often sound a little cluttered or derivative, but “Boom Clap” doesn’t suffer from either of these issues at all. The instrumental is extremely layered, there are at least three different synth lines, bleeping and echoing through the track and a lot of reverb, but they’re arranged so immaculately and potently, that in the memory, the song seems to be all percussion when the track explodes on the chorus with shotgun kick drums supporting Charli’s impassioned vocals. I can’t honestly think of any other song that sounds much like it, even elsewhere on the album.

“Boom Clap” may be the indisputable highlight, but it’s far from the only track that captures a stunningly impactful teenage energy. “London Queen” is a deliciously tasteless piece of power pop that checks every box for prime guilty pleasure material, with tacky lyrics, a glittering synth melody and pumping rock guitars. Charli’s team up with Rita Ora on “Doing It” is a charming and glamorous song of friendship, and “Body of My Own” an empowering pop-punk masturbation anthem with strident synths and urgent vocal melodies.

Sucker’s shamelessly upbeat and rebellious throwback pop-punk sound was a breath of fresh air at the time and is even more so today, with unforgettably catchy songs aplenty. However, it clearly wasn’t something Charli wanted to do forever. She’s continued to write hits for others, including Selena Gomez and Camila Cabello, but her own recording career was destined to take her away in more obscure and challenging directions. It would absolutely be a mistake to write Sucker off though, as however you approach it, it boasts some of the most unstoppably catchy power-pop songs of the decade.

Highlights: “Break the Rules”, “London Queen”, “Boom Clap”, “Doing It”, “Body of My Own”, “Famous”, “So over You”

Lowlights: “Gold Coins”, “I Need Ur Luv”

3. Pop 2 (2017)

Charli stepped up her collaborative impulse on Pop2, the latter and better of her 2017 mixtapes, recruiting established stars like Tove Lo and Carly Rae Jepsen, and old friends like Brooke Candy, as well as new arrivals such as Dorian Electra and Caroline Polachek. Out of these influences Pop2, true to its title, crafts a potential blueprint for the coming era of pop music, sounding as much like a statement of intent for each of its contributors as it does for its curator, acting as a calling card for its more underground artists. It’s a colder and more alien project than Number 1 Angel, stepping up the musical experimentation with bolder and more processed sounds.

The songs on the first half of Pop2 continue to develop the more vulnerable mixtape songwriting she returned to with Number 1 Angel, evolving it with ever more confident and experimental sounds. Charli and Carly Rae Jepsen match each other’s energies perfectly on the opening track “Backseat”, with Carly slipping seamlessly into Charli’s world of romantic indecision and seesawing euphoria and torment. The only two solo tracks on the album, “Lucky” and the fan favourite closer “Track 10”, are both tragically wailing mournful pieces, with glitching and droning sections. The enveloping bed of cloudy synths on “Lucky” support the autotuned howling vocals and despairing lyrics, and it pairs beautifully with the following track “Tears” where Charli and Polachek are another fantastic pairing together.

The other half of Pop2 represents some moments even more experimental and boundary pushing than Vroom Vroom, testing the limits of both autotuning on tracks like “Delicious”, and lyrical repetition on songs such as “I Got It” and “Unlock It”, sounding more confident and assured than many of those earlier moments. The rap rager track “I Got It” accommodates CupcakKe much better than “Lipgloss” did, side by side with Brooke Candy and Brazilian rapper Pablo Vittar, and Charli and Dorian Electra are a superb complement to one another on “Femmebot”. Unfortunately, the rapped verse from Mykki Blanco here doesn’t sound anywhere near as smoothly incorporated, and the project does hit a bit of a speedbump with “Delicious”, where the heavy autotuning on Charli’s voice grates when combined with such as fast tempo track.

“Porsche” is a sweet and much simpler song, that comes as a welcome cool down, transitioning back into the more introspective tone that frames the project, ending with the ballad “Track 10”, the project’s most abstract moment that acts as a culmination of the album’s themes. The tweeting birdlike synth glitches and curious, elegant sounds that open the track give way to an increasingly formless, droning and distorted soundscape, the track rising and falling in a linear fashion and finally breaking down in a shimmering cascade of vocal snippets, melodies and warbling arpeggios. With this project, every element that would comprise Charli’s distinctive sound was finally in place and one can feel her testing its limits and mapping it out sonically, leading to some of the most challenging and bold material of her career.

Highlights: “Backseat”, “Out of My Head”, “Lucky”, “Tears”, “Porsche”

Lowlights: “Delicious”

2. How I’m Feeling Now (2020)

The most recent release in Charli’s canon, How I’m Feeling Now was released under the unprecedented circumstances of the COVID-19 lockdown. Announced in April and released in May, recorded by Charli and her producers entirely within the confines of their own homes, the project recaptures the intimacy and raw creative energy of Super Ultra or Heartbreaks & Earthquakes but with more accomplished songwriting and production. The short schedule was an intentional challenge that she rose to phenomenally, writing, composing, recording and sequencing the album’s eleven tracks on a reduced budget from her label after overspending on her previous record Charli.

The circumstances under which How I’m Feeling Now was recorded are an essential contributor to its intimate, vulnerable and disoriented feel. In my original review on this site, I praised how perfectly Charli and her producers had bottled the complex emotions of the zeitgeist. From the blistering opener “Pink Diamond” to the penultimate track “anthems”, How I’m Feeling Now captures the frustrating sense of deprivation and paranoia brought on by the pandemic, bringing life to a sudden standstill. This feeling is expressed beautifully in moments like “c2.0”, a graceful remix of the song “Click”, this time expressing a poignant sense of loss, missing the camaraderie felt among her friendship circle on their nights out.

However, returning to the project, as I have done many times in the past five months, even when removed from the context of its production, the album more than stands on its own as her most conceptual piece, exploring the feelings of enforced intimacy with a person about whom you thought you surely knew everything. Like many, Charli found her relationship placed under an unexpected microscope, and under lockdown with her significant other, she found their relationship as welcoming and comforting as ever. These themes lead into some of the most revealing and tender moments in her catalogue, on tracks like the quirky and fun “Claws”, the wistful “Forever” and the nostalgic “7 Years”, with songwriting feeling more of a second nature to Charli than ever.

Despite the demanding and fraught circumstances of its release, How I’m Feeling Now feels as effortless and assured as any other moment in Charli XCX’s discography. Punchy, dynamic and emotional, it in all ways comes across as the work of an artist at their creative and artistic peak, capitalising on the momentum of the moment with the spontaneous energy always synonymous with her work.

Highlights: “Forever”, “Claws”, “7 Years”, “Detonate”, “Enemy”, “I Finally Understand”, “c2.0”, “Anthems”

Lowlights: “Visions”, “Party 4 U”

1. Charli (2019)

With each of her preceding albums, Charli explored different tones and styles, adapting each one to her own voice and adopting them into her ever-changing musical persona. It was on her third album, appropriately self-titled, where she brought everything that makes Charli XCX together on a single project. The adolescent girl-group energy of Sucker, the glitchy, vulnerable and experimental balladry of Pop2, the slick, emotionally dynamic pop songwriting of Number 1 Angel and the bold musical pathfinding of Vroom Vroom were all tied together with the impeccable sequencing and pacing of her early mixtapes. The result was not only her best project but easily one of the best pop albums of the 2010s.

Kicking off with the stunning, dancing synth beams and rising, breathlessly autotuned vocal melodies of “Next Level Charli”, before transitioning into possibly the best Charli XCX song ever, her duet with Christine and the Queens, “Gone”. With springy and cinematic synth production—the best of A.G. Cook’s career—it’s a taut and angst-ridden song of alienation and yearning, with claustrophobic melodies suggestive of a climb or a rising tide of tension and anxiety. The abstract and poetic lyrics seem at times to be suggesting a feeling of social anxiety and at others of struggling against dystopian despotism. Christine’s dramatic vocals complement the wounded sensuality of Charli’s beautifully, and the whole track has a taut gloss and glamour that’s utterly intoxicating. The bridled passions of “Gone” then burst forth on the distorted bass and crystalline vocals of “Cross You Out”, building to a strident crescendo of vocal harmonies between Charli and Sky Ferreira.

Charli embraces collaboration as fully as Pop2, with past guests Kim Petras, Tommy Cash, Brooke Candy, CupcakKe and Pablo Vittar returning, alongside more unexpected appearances by girl group HAIM, rising RnB star Lizzo, Clairo, Yaegi, Big Freedia and notably Troye Sivan, who features on both the lead single “1999”, a synth-pop update of the Sucker era, and closing track “2099”. This latter moment is one of the more ambitious and daring tracks of Charli’s catalogue, with whirling vortexes of sinister synth notes, and more lyrics that seem to be looking forward at years to come with equal determination, apprehension and defiance.

Another personal highlight is the track “Blame It On Your Love”, which reimagines “Track 10” as a grandiose, up-tempo tropical house anthem with impeccable production by Stargate and an energetic verse from Lizzo. “White Mercedes” and “Official” are two more beautiful love songs, the former once again casting Charli in stunned awe of her partner, yearning one day to overcome her personal flaws and fears and live up to the person she sees them to be. Meanwhile “Official” delineates the minute reassurances and familiarities of love, the intimate details that ratify their love as something tangible and reliable.

Tracks like “Shake It” and “Click” read as updates of some of the more eccentric or bawdy moments from Vroom Vroom or Pop2, with a run of rap features and a constantly shifting musical substrate, the latter ending with a distorted noisy outro from Dylan Brady of 100 Gecs. Each one of the featured artists capitalises on the strengths of the production to deliver phenomenal verses, with standouts coming from Cash, Brooke Candy and CupcakKe, who sounds far more at home here than on “Lipgloss”.

It’s astonishing how “Shake It” manages to keep changing and switching beats to accommodate each new artist while still sounding fantastically cohesive, and in that respect, it’s a microcosm of not only this album but Charli’s career as a whole. It has undergone so many different phases and sounds, but throughout has maintained a captivating sense of accomplishment, dynamism and a euphoric sense of appreciation for music’s transformative ability to create emotions of intense beauty and joy.

Pop music is so called because of its popularity and often comes laden with associations of safety, trendiness and accessibility, but the music of Charli XCX is a constant reminder that at times, pop can be the most innovative genre anywhere in music. Whether she’s looking back into pop’s past on Sucker or “1999”, dragging it into an uncertain future with Charli and Vroom Vroom or finding the perfect model through which to express the experiences of the present on How I’m Feeling Now, the name Charli XCX is synonymous with the most exciting and inspiring moments in modern pop.

Highlights: “Next Level Charli”, “Gone”, “Cross You Out”, “1999”, “Click”, “Warm”, “Blame It On Your Love”, “White Mercedes”, “Silver Cross”, “Official”, “Shake It”, “February 2017”, “2099”

Lowlights: n/a

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Written by Hal Kitchen

Primarily a reviewer of music and films, Hal Kitchen studied at the University of Kent where he graduated with distinction in both Liberal Arts BA and Film MA, specializing in film, gender theory and cultural studies. Whilst at Kent he was the Film & TV sub-editor and later Culture Editor of the campus newspaper InQuire and runs a public blog on my Letterboxd account. Hal joined 25YearsLaterSite as a volunteer writer in May 2020 and resumed his current role of assistant film editor in November 2020.

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